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Dancing in the New York City streets

By Arielle Kaplan

Section: Arts

September 5, 2008

Let me start off by saying how thrilled I am that I can now add the words “professional dancer” to my resume.

At the end of a not-so-thrilling summer, I was given the opportunity to audition for a dancing commercial that would be filmed in Manhattan over a period of three days. Given the fact I started off my theatrical career as a singer/actor and could barely touch my toes let alone do a split, I wasn’t feeling too confident about my dancing abilities. I’m a rather recent convert to the world of professional dance, to be honest.

The night I was scheduled to perform I went into the studio with some trepidation, but I soon found out that this audition wasn’t going to be using the style of dance I expected. We ended up dancing half the time doing the robot. I still was nervous about my prowess, though. Much to my surprise, I got a call a few days later asking me to send in my W-2 form and time preference for the bus ticket to New York.

A week or so later I found myself awake at 4:00 am driving to Boston to catch a very early bus to Manhattan. This particular commercial included three days’ pay, an all-expenses-paid room, and bus tickets both ways. It was a pretty good deal for doing a one-minute dance all over the city about 20 times per day.

We started shooting at 5:00 am every morning. This means I had to be in costume and makeup at around 4:30 am and actually look alive by quarter to. Needless to say, we gave Starbucks a lot of business on that trip. The actual commercial was part of a guerrilla marketing campaign by an advertising agency to promote a new branch of its company. The concept was that the other dancers and I were “random” New Yorkers (my character was an actor) who heard this music and were swept up into a dance all together.

I spent the next two days with a camera two feet from my face and did the robot more times than I’d like to count. The first morning we had an hour-long rehearsal on Wall Street where camera angles were tested, the music volume was set, and we were placed in the formation we would be using. The most pleasant surprise of the project came when I was placed in the front of the dance group.

Traipsing around the city on foot and via subway while maintaining the same energy we had at 7 a.m. by 2 p.m. was extremely tiring. We filmed all over the island, including places such as Madison Square Garden, in front of the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, in a moving subway car, and—my dream—on Broadway.

Being a featured dancer in a commercial was an amazing experience. It was hard, tiring, and sometimes frustrating work (such as when it unexpectedly poured while we were in Central Park), but it was a great view into the career I hope to pursue when I leave Brandeis.

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